Summer course offers diverse living situation

By Jennifer Baik
Assistant News Editor

Many compassionate students with a knack for service have always wanted to expand beyond the “picture perfect” Malibu community and yearned to experience life in the “real world.”

Their wish will finally come true this summer.

For the very first time since Pepperdine moved its campus from Los Angeles to Malibu, 15 students will have the opportunity to broaden their perspectives by living in at-risk communities in the heart of Los Angeles for their summer courses in May.

The idea of providing such a program for students to experience life in the inner-city was introduced this year by members of the Pepperdine Volunteer Center, administrators and faculty.

The three-year program will begin this summer and if proven to be successful for the students, will continue for the 2003 spring term. 

The Urban Residence Program, sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation and the Pepperdine Volun-teer Center, will provide housing in the inner-city for students interested in taking Religion 301 and GSBS 592 for Summer Block 1 May 6-May 31.

The program will cost $750 per unit and housing will be provided with no cost through the church families living in the Los Angeles community.

The difference between such a project and other Pepperdine programs sponsored by the PVC is that the Urban Residence Program actually has students live, work and study in an underprivileged population for a long period of time. 

The Urban Reality Tour, a PVC sponsored event, only involves students taking a one-day educational tour in which they visit eight sites for the homeless and learn valuable insights about homeless programs in at-risk communities.

“It (Urban Residence Program) offers a great opportunity to learn in a new environment,” said Service Learning Coordinator Brad Dudley.  “I suspect that these students will have a different world view after they finish the program.”

Students will be placed with single families living in the East Los Angeles neighborhood and South Central. 

The PVC is in the process of sending out applications to churches whose members include families in urban areas who might be interested in housing the Pepperdine students along with taking the time to involve themselves in their lives by providing a safe, hospitable stay.

The chosen church families will house one to two students per home and will receive a stipend. 

Each student will also receive a $500 stipend that will help cover necessity expenses such as food and gas for transportation.

Religion professor Dr. Daniel Rodriguez will be one of the two professors teaching a course through the program. 

Rodriguez will teach Religion 301 three times a week for five hours while also living in the L.A. community with the students. 

One of the main objectives of Rodriguez’s course will be to have students identify the crucial issues that must be addressed if the gospel of Jesus is to be relevant among African-Americans and Hispanics living in at-risk contexts in the U.S.

“I’m really excited about the program,” Rodriguez said.  “I hope that through this experience, my students will be able to apply the challenges that face inner-city churches that are committed in making a difference in their at-risk neighborhoods.” 

One of the requirements for Rodriguez’s course will be for the students to attend certain churches highlighted in his list that are located in the inner-city such as Victory Outreach in South Central and Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights. 

Students will have to extensively interview the church members and the pastor in order for them to complete a project toward the end of the course.

“I want them to be able to grasp how these churches help interpret the Bible in a relevant, life-transforming manner,” Rodriguez said.

Along with the three-unit religion course, students will be required to take the two-unit GSBS 592 (General Studies in Experimental Learning) course totaling five units, which includes an academic internship they will have to complete from a non-profit organization in the greater Los Angeles area. 

The course will be taught by Internship Coordinator Nancy Shatzer and will require students to submit reflective journals along with a culmination project analyzing their findings toward the end of the course.

“I think the intent of the program allows students to experience an urban learning setting such as Los Angeles,” Shatzer said. “The complexities of diversity in culture can be first-hand experienced by living in the areas and working alongside professionals in the non-profit organizations.”

Students who are interested in attending the Urban Residence Program should obtain an application through the PVC and submit it no later than March 22.

“What they’re experiencing in their life career will no doubt be shaped from their experience through this program,” Dudley said.  “It’s going to teach us global lessons.”